Review: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani ChokshiThe Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
Published by HarperCollins on February 14, 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Gothic
Pages: 304
Source: Received from publisher

"Chokshi's tale is as sweet as a piece of fairy fruit, and just as wicked. Every bite is velvet, every swallow is gold, and the taste lingers like a fever dream." — V. E. Schwab, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

"A delightfully meta fairy tale. . . . Magic emanates from every exquisitely crafted sentence. . . . It feels like the best conjuring trick ever." — Charlie Jane Anders, Washington Post

A sumptuous, gothic-infused story about a marriage that is unraveled by dark secrets, a friendship cursed to end in tragedy, and the danger of believing in fairy tales—the breathtaking adult debut from New York Times bestselling author Roshani Chokshi.

Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after—and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.

But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.

Combining the lush, haunting atmosphere of Mexican Gothic with the dreamy enchantment of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is a spellbinding and darkly romantic page-turner about love and lies, secrets and betrayal, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive.

?"Gorgeous and ornate, this sensual fairy tale illuminates the corrosive and redemptive power of both love and lies." — Holly Black, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Book of Night

"A fairy tale in the oldest and truest sense: a haunting dream full of blood and love, vicious truths and beautiful lies. It swallowed me whole, and I went willingly." — Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling author of The Once and Future Witches

The Tale of the Last Flower Bride follows three main characters who have given their lives – in one way or another – in their desperate search to find the fae.  

Fabulously wealthy and reclusive, heiress Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada has always been bewitched by faerie tales. Indigo’s fortune has gone to developing her private collection of mystical artifacts, from crumbling texts to taxidermied beasts of legend. Fascinated by the mystical, it’s no surprise that when Indigo meets a beautiful academic who’s spent his life studying folklore, she adds him to her collection too.   

After a whirlwind romance, Indigo strikes a bargain with her new bridegroom: he can have her heart, so long as he never asks her about her past. The Bridegroom (an unnamed narrator) eagerly agrees, all the while knowing that legends are full of figures who could not help but break their vows.

When the couple visits Indigo’s childhood home, the Bridegroom’s vow is tested – and just like those figures he has long studied, he succumbs to temptation. For the House of Dreams is alive with the secrets of not only one girl’s past, but two: to unravel the truth about his wife, he must first discover the fate of her childhood best friend, Azure.   

The stakes in The Last Tale of the Flower Bride are high, and Roshani Chokshi doesn’t shy away from difficult themes. Indigo, Azure, and the Bridegroom are all desperate to escape their realities for the Otherworld, and with good reason. Readers should be aware that neglect and child abuse are prominently discussed, including sexual abuse and violence. It’s not gratuitous or without purpose, but it is difficult to read. 

Roshani Chokshi uses highly stylized descriptions and crafts heightened emotional stakes for her characters, creating an atmosphere that seems “more real” than reality.

That difficulty can be largely attributed to Roshani Chokshi’s writing, which is at a career high here. Chokshi’s writing is so distinct: she uses highly stylized descriptions and creates a heightened emotional atmosphere for her characters, with everything feeling somehow “more real” than reality. Dual timelines and dual narrative perspectives are used with great effect to build a sense of unease, tension, and mystery as the story reaches its climax. Not everyone can pull this kind of thing off, but I think Chokshi does it well. Personally, I greatly preferred Azure’s voice to the Bridegroom’s and would’ve been happy to read a story told entirely from her perspective. 

Just as I was disappointed by half the narrative voice, for me, the story also failed to deliver on half of its premise. Marketed as a fantasy romance, that’s what I was anticipating, so I was disappointed to find that the romance is toxic insta-love and the fantasy elements are scant. It’s almost as if this book wasn’t a fantasy romance at all… 

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride intentionally defies categorization, but if pressed, I would describe it as a gothic psychological drama inspired by fairy tales. All-consuming love, a spookily sentient-seeming mansion, and globe-spanning fairy tale rituals are core elements, but this is not a fantasy novel. It’s a story about children whose circumstances are so unfair, so awful, that they must create an escape for themselves inside magical lands to survive.  

Since Chokshi decided to “go there” with the Otherworld, I wish she’d truly gone all the way. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is a good book, but with slightly different choices, I think it could’ve been great.